Before she was famous

Oprah

Oprah (Credit: Getty)

Long before she was famous, Oprah Winfrey was thinking big things — including becoming the first black host of “Good Morning America.” 

Oprah Winfrey once dreamed of becoming the first black host of “Good Morning America,” but her co-workers watched on as the young journalist soared to even greater heights.

Kentucky Educational Television host Bill Goodman was the news producer and assignment editor at WTVF-TV in Nashville when Winfrey — then  a 19-year-old college sophomore — anchored the weekend news.

“She was a perfectionist and she worked very hard,” Goodman said. “As one of the first African American women on-the-air, she knew that a lot of people were watching her.  She did not want to fail.”

Even then, Winfrey was generous, volunteering a week to housesit and watch a Cocker Spaniel for Goodman and his wife.  But she was also fun.

“Even if we were covering serious news, she just had a way of lighting up the room,” Goodman said. “Oprah was as nice, as engaging, as enthusiastic, and as energetic, as you see her today.”

Food Network host Sandra Pinckney worked with Winfrey at WJZ-TV in Baltimore a few years later.  They met after Oprah was demoted from news anchor to reading cut-ins. 

“There was dignity in the way she was handling this new assignment,” Pinckney said. “I was trained at an early age to keep your feelings well inside in the work place.  So I really felt a connection to her.”

When Pinckney was being harassed by a peeping Tom in 1978, Winfrey wouldn’t let her return home except to collect her things. “Right then and there she took the key off of her key ring and gave it to me,” Pinckney said.

Those three months were the funniest of Pinckney’s life, she said. Winfrey once told Pinckney not to laugh when her blind date arrived, then she disappeared, leaving Pinckney to answer the door.

“He must have been about five-foot four-and-a-half with a very large head,” Pinckney said. She found Winfrey “sitting in the closet on top of the dirty clothes hamper, tears flowing down her face because she knows this is a funny looking guy.”

After watching Winfrey perform her one-woman show, “To Make a Poet Black and Beautiful and Bid Her Sing,” Pinckney realized her friend was destined for greatness.

“I saw her in a different way,” Pinckney recalled.  “I said, I get it now. This is bigger than anything. This is bigger than Baltimore.  It’s bigger than a talk show. This is big.”


Did you know? Oprah Winfrey

Origin of her name: Her parents planned to name her Orpah after a Biblical character, but it was misspelled on the birth certificate.

Abuse ordeal: While living with her mother in Milwaukee, Oprah says she was sexually abused by a cousin, an uncle and a family friend.

Brush with truancy: She began skipping school, stealing, and ran away from home in her teens. 

Teen mom: She found out she was pregnant at 14, but she didn’t tell her parents until she went into labor at seven months.  Her son died two weeks later.

Journalism wunderkind: At 17, she was given a newsreader job at a radio station in Nashville.

Big break: Arrives at WJZ in Baltimore in 1976, anchoring news and hosting a talk show. Meets best buddy Gayle King at the station.

Chicago sensation: Takes “AM Chicago” from gutter to top of talk-show ratings in a month, trouncing “Donahue.”

National phenomenon: Hour-long “Oprah Winfrey Show” premieres Sept. 8, 1986 and becomes an immediate blockbuster.

Acting chops: Nominated for Best Supporting Actress in the Academy Awards for her performance in “The Color Purple.”

Steady Stedman: She begins dating Stedman Graham in the mid 1980s.

Forbes pioneer: Oprah was the first African American woman to make the Forbes Billionaire’s list. (AMNY)

Tags: News , Entertainment , Oprah2011

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